Jeff Pries

Business Intelligence, SQL Server, and other assorted IT miscellany

Category: SQL Saturday (page 1 of 2)

SQL Saturday Roundup: #578 – Atlanta, GA (BI Edition)

Saturday, December 10th marked the 2nd annual SQL Saturday Atlanta BI Edition.  Atlanta is known for its massive SQL Saturday held every spring / summer, so I’m happy to see the smaller, more BI-focused winter event continuing on.  With such a large number of SQL Server professionals in the area, there is definitely room for multiple events.

As with last year’s event, this one was a well-run event with no flaws that I was aware of.  This year seemed to be a bit of a “back to basics” theme.  Many of the extras that are frequently seen at SQL Saturday events — lots of sponsors, attendee bags and printed materials, speaker shirts, paper session evaluations, and other extras weren’t present.  Instead, the focus was purely on providing a full day of content across multiple tracks, and you know what, that’s just fine.  (Many) free donuts were provided for breakfast and boxed lunches were purchased, and everything was adequate.  The core idea behind SQL Saturday is free training and networking, and the event delivered!  I particularly thought the session lineup for this event was a great mix of topics.

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SQL Saturday Roundup: #560 – Charlotte, NC

SQL Saturday 560 - Charlotte, NCThis past Saturday marked Charlotte’s 5th consecutive SQL Saturday event, and my 4th in Charlotte (I missed last year’s due to a scheduling conflict) — SQL Saturday # 560.  Also fun, this happened to mark the 20th SQL Saturday that I attended over the past few years — a pretty cool achievement!

As a change to this year over previous years, this year SQL Saturday Charlotte offered 2 all-day precons on Friday, both of which would sell out.  With a “go big or go home” type attitude, they made life very difficult and forced me to choose between two incredible spears and presentations:  Adam Machanic’s (B | T) “Tuning Your Biggest Queries” and Jen Underwood’s (B | T) “Advanced Analytics”  With two fantastic speakers to choose from, each with a great, and relevant, session, I had some decisions to make.

After an easy drive from north Atlanta to Charlotte after work on Thursday, I headed out bright and early Friday morning to attend Jen Underwood’s (B | T)  “Advanced Analytics”  The precons were held in an off-campus location, the Ballantyne Center, which worked out to be a pretty decent venue.  Adam’s precon was held in a standard classroom and Jen’s precon was held in a computer lab, which provided each person a computer with a solid network connection and the ability to follow along with the presentation slides and run the lab exercises locally.

Jen Underwood presenting Advanced Analytics

Jen Underwood presenting Advanced Analytics

Jen’s Analytics precon was an excellent session and a great introduction to the topic.  The topic is far too deep to cover in a single day session, but Jen did a good job of hitting the highlights and getting people introduced to the material and inspired by the possibilities of the subject with plenty of resources for further learning.  This was certainly time well spent!

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SQL Saturday Roundup: #521 – Atlanta, GA

SQL Saturday Roundup: #521 – Atlanta, GASQL Saturday 521

This past Saturday marked the annual event that many of us look forward to all year long.  Called by some to be the “Summit of the South,” SQL Saturday Atlanta is always a large and very professionally run event which draws hordes of SQL Server Professionals nationwide.  Again, this year, the event did not disappoint.  Despite the initial overcast and rainy weather which opened up the day, a record number of 590 attendees attended this awesome event!

For the second year in a row, I volunteered my time to help make the event as great as it could be.  For the first time in the past few years, I was did not attend any of the event’s preconference sessions, which typically run all day on Friday.  That being said, the sessions that were being given were excellent topics which were presented by some truly great speakers.  I’m sure everyone who attended learned a ton and had a great time.

While I didn’t attend any preconference sessions on Friday, SQL Saturday Atlanta did still begin for me on Friday when I headed over to the site Friday afternoon to begin helping with prep.  We had a great group of organizers and volunteers onsite to perform the bag stuffing and venue setup.  Additionally, this year, the decision was made to pre-print all of the attendee admission tickets, name badges, and raffle tickets (rather than relying on attendees to pre-print their items at home prior to the event to bring them with).  This allowed for nicer name badges and perforated raffle tickets to be used, but was a very laborious process collating and assembling the packets for the morning’s registration.  I ended up spending all of my time Friday afternoon helping out with the registration packet assembly process.

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SQL Saturday Roundup: #477 – Atlanta, GA (BI Edition)

SQL Saturday Roundup: #477 – Atlanta, GA (BI Edition)

This past Saturday marked a great landmark for Atlanta — the first “BI Edition” SQL Saturday, and, for many of us, our first SQL Saturday of 2016!  Atlanta has been hosting a regular SQL Saturday event for many years now, always with tremendous attendance.  Based on the amount of interest in the regular SQL Saturday (usually around May of each year), it was great to see a BI focused edition launched.

With the regular event in the Spring, having this event in January was a great way to space out the two Atlanta events probably about as equally as they could be.  And, for a first event, it seemed to be a tremendous success with a registration wait list and around 300 in attendance.

The event was held at the local Microsoft facility in Alpharetta, GA, where the monthly Atlanta MDF user group meetings are held.  All told, the facility was a pretty good choice of venue (and definitely a convenient location), but suffered from some overcrowding.  The facility had about half the sessions in roughly classroom sized rooms and half the sessions in much smaller conference room sized rooms.  While these smaller rooms made for an interesting and more intimate setting, they ultimately filled up very quickly.

Unlike many SQL Saturdays, the event kicked off with an opening keynote and presentation in the large room (multiple rooms joined together technically).  I enjoy it when a SQL Saturday begins with some sort of all-attendee opening remarks, it provides nice symmetry to the event (which always has a final closing remarks session), so hopefully more events will adopt this.

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Dandy Weyn presenting the opening remarks at SQL Saturday Atlanta 2016, BI Edition.

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SQL Saturday Roundup: #410 – Chattanooga, TN

SQLSAT410_webSQL Saturday Roundup: #410 – Chattanooga, TN

This past weekend, I had the privilege of volunteering to help Chattanooga, TN execute their first SQL Saturday — SQL Saturday 410!  Being only about a two hour drive from where I live, I was very happy to see another nearby city launch a new SQL Saturday event.  For a first-run event, the event went very smoothly and I witnessed no show-stopping glitches.  While there were small things that could be improved here and there (there always are), I felt the event was executed very well and everybody seemed to enjoy themselves.  All told, there were about six full sponsor tables setup in the registration area and a couple of the typical raffle-only sponsors.  I assisted with event photos and room proctoring.  And, of course, Micron was present again with their always popular bacon-scented t-shirt!

Despite being a new event, the organizers managed to recruit a good number of speakers and managed to fill out 6 different tracks of 5 time slots.  A great feat!  I’ve seen longer running events with fewer sessions available.  A good number of sessions helps to increase the diversity and ensures that there is “something for everybody.”  The venue itself worked out great with ample parking, ample rooms, and ample space in rooms.  Only the first session I attended was near capacity, which was great (since nobody wants to miss a session due to not enough seats).

All told, I had a great time at the first SQL Saturday Chattanooga and I felt the event was very well done and I look forward to future events from the Chattanooga crew!

Registration and sponsor area

Registration and sponsor area

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SQL Saturday Roundup: #392 – Atlanta, GA

sqlsatatl392SQL Saturday Roundup: #392 – Atlanta, GA

This past Saturday a time-honored event was held in Alpharetta, GA.  That tradition, straight out of past — or is it future? was SQL Saturday Atlanta.  Called by some the “PASS Summit of the South,” SQL Saturday Atlanta was the 392nd event in the SQL Saturday series and continues the yearly streak in Atlanta since SQL Saturday #13 in 2009.

It seems each year, the stakes are raised higher and higher as far as size, quality, and theme — and this year was no exception.  With this summer marking the 30th anniversary of Back to the Future, it seems appropriate that the event was called Back to SQL Saturday and given a full, over-the-top Back to the Future theme.  But, before we talk about Saturday, we first have to travel back in time — to Friday…

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SQL Saturday Roundup: #391 – Jacksonville, FL

SQLSAT391_webSQL Saturday Roundup: #391 – Jacksonville, FL

Being only about a 5 hour drive away, when I saw the session schedule for SQL Saturday Jacksonville publish this year, I couldn’t resist signing up for a road trip down.  A session list rich with professional development and data visualization topics, both of which I tend to really enjoy.  So, on Friday, I hopped into the car and had a nice drive down to Jacksonville for SQL Saturday 391, and it didn’t disappoint!

As per usual, the event was very smoothly run.  Check-in was quick and painless (thanks, SpeedPass), and the sponsor area was easy to navigate with many familiar faces.  Always good to see repeat sponsors!  With a jam packed day of sessions, it was time to get started.

The first session I attended for the day was Mike Davis’s (B | T) presentation on Handling Interview Puzzles.  Being someone who conducts a fair number of interviews myself, I was interested in hearing some opinions on those strange and sometimes difficult puzzle questions sometimes asked in interviews.  The session did not disappoint with a number of great examples, many of which has been used at some point by Google.

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Mike Davis presenting “Interview Puzzles and How to Handle Them”

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SQL Saturday Roundup: #363 – Nashville, TN

sqlsatlogoSQL Saturday Roundup: #363 – Nashville, TN

This past weekend, I made the trek to Nashville, TN to visit Lipscomb University for SQL Saturday #363: Nashville and it proved to be a fantastic event.  It’d been a couple of years since I’d had a chance to visit Nashville for a SQL Saturday — my last was SQL Saturday #145 in 2012, so I was excited to return!

I arrived on Thursday evening to allow me time to attend a precon being presented by by Stacia Misner (B | T) and Joseph D’Antoni (B | T) — Finding Your Balance:  BI in the Cloud, On Premises, or Both since the Cloud is already such a hot topic and most migration efforts typically begin with some form of hybrid effort.  It doesn’t hurt that they wrote Microsoft’s official white paper on the topic, either.

The precon was given at the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee which I thought was a pretty interesting venue.  At first, when I saw that listed on the event page, I figured that had to be a mistake.  But sure enough, that’s exactly where it was.  While the Food Bank is a large warehouse full of food, they also have conference rooms on the second floor where events such as this can take place.  All in all, it turned out to be a great venue — certainly better than the hotel meeting room venues I’ve been in.

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Stacia Misner and Joseph D’Antoni presenting Finding Your Balance: BI in the Cloud, On Premises, or Both

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SQL Saturday Roundup: #330 – Charlotte, NC

SQL Saturday Roundup: #330 – Charlotte, NC

Fall is definitely conference season.  With SQL Saturday Orlando last weekend and PASS Summit 2014 the first week of November, what could be more fun that squeezing in another SQL Saturday in between?

With Charlotte being nearby, as well as a BI-focused event that I’d intended in the past, it seemed like a no-brainer to make the drive up to check it up for its 3rd year running.  So, Friday after work, I hopped in the car and made the drive up to beautiful Charlotte, NC to attend my 13th SQL Saturday!

Unfortunately, with October being a very busy month as is, I didn’t have time to attend anything but the main event itself, but such is the way of the busiest month of the year!

I arrived at the site of the 3rd SQL Saturday Charlotte, Central Piedmont Community College, bright and early Saturday morning.  As per usual, signage to parking was very clear and check-in with a pre-printed speedpass was a breeze.

Sponsors were arranged in a long row throughout the center of the building and were very easily accessible while moving between sessions.  Seemed like a good representation of sponsors with a few I hadn’t seen before and excellent raffle prizes.

The morning kicked off with a short presentation in the auditorium to introduce the organizers and sponsors as well as logistics for the day.  With the conclusion of the opening remarks, we were off to start the day of sessions!

Opening remarks at SQL Saturday #330

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SQL Saturday Roundup: #318 – Orlando, FL

SQL Saturday Roundup: #318 – Orlando, FL

This past Saturday, I made my annual trek down to Orlando, FL for SQL Saturday #318 at Seminole State College.  I’ve learned you can always count on the Orlando team to put on a great event, and this one was no exception.  With over 600 registrations and over 450 in attendance, this was one of the larger SQL Saturdays in the region and in my opinion, it went off without a hitch!

On Friday morning, I left Atlanta and began the drive down to Orlando.  I would’ve liked to have been able to attend Jason Horner’s (B | T) “Zero to Dimensional Modeling Hero” pre-con session, but that would’ve required an extra day and with how busy things currently are, that just wasn’t in the cards this time.

I’d been following Andy Warren’s (B | T) blog posts regarding marketing for the even leading up to it and was pretty happy to see that they were able to exceed both their registration goal of 500 and their attendance goal of 350 by 640 and 450 respectively.  Well done!  He really worked hard getting the message out there and it worked.

Saturday morning, I got up bright and early and headed over from the hotel to the campus.  Signage was great and convenient parking was easily found.  Having printed my SpeedPASS in advance, check-in was a breeze.  Additionally, I got to pick up my SQL Saturday Orlando polo at check-in, which came out really nice!

SQL Saturday Orlando polo shirt, sold online prior to the event.  Came out great!

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